Gudang Garam and sports endorsement
Gudang Garam International is an Indonesian cigarette company selling kretek (clove flavoured) cigarettes of the same name. According to Euromonitor International, in 2010 Gudang Garam International held the top market share in Indonesia.
The tobacco company’s website (accessed from the UK) includes the brand logo and name, yet the website focuses on Premier League football. Gudang Garam owns and actively promotes the internet-based sports channel dedicated to football, a sport which is very popular with the young, which is a concern in a country where child smoking has reached epidemic levels.
The Premier League
The Premier League is the organising body responsible for Britain’s top football division. Despite its copyright and image rights being tightly controlled, in Indonesia the Premier League is promoted by Gudang Garam International, via its sports channel InterSport.
Given how tightly controlled the rights are, it might come as a surprise to some that the Premier League does not have a non-tobacco promotion clause in its overseas contracts.
The Premier League has defended itself stating that it has no direct contract with the tobacco company, but it did acknowledge that its partner in Indonesia does sublicense to Gudang Garam. “Our live rights partner sublicences some Premier League matches to a channel that does [InterSport],” a spokesperson for the Premier League Nick Noble has said.
When asked what would done to break the arrangement in Indonesia, the Premier League did not answer, beyond saying the arrangement lasts from 2010-2013.
The Premier League’s logo also appears in an InterSport YouTube video featuring shots of Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City matches.
In June 2012, the Guardian newspaper reported on the celebrity endorsement of Gudang Garam’s InterSport internet channel by Manchester United and England football star Rio Ferdinand.
Deborah Arnott of Action for Smoking and Health said that sponsorship deals with tobacco companies were banned in the UK because of concerns that they promoted cigarettes to young people and was quoted by the paper saying
- Well over a third of 15-year-old boys in Indonesia smoke and smoking rates among the young have increased sixfold since 1995. Rio is estimated to be worth £40m and to earn more than £100,000 a week; does he really need to do this? I hope now he realises what he's done, he'll apologise.
Ferdinand wears the InterSport branding in YouTube and billboard ads for the sports channel, but it is not clear whether he knew that the brand was actually a cigarette brand. Indeed, according to the Guardian, Ferdinand is a “fervent anti-smoker”, who was adamant that he “was not advertising tobacco but the sports channel”.
The National Commission for Child Protection in Indonesia urged Manchester United to act immediately to remove the promotion, since Rio Ferdinand is a major role model for children and adolescents in Indonesia and around the world, said Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of The National Commission for Child Protection in Indonesia.
According to the Guardian article, a spokeswoman for United said:
- The contractual agreement between Rio and Gudang Garam InterSports runs to 31 October 2012, at which time all forms of advertising will cease. Both Manchester United and Rio Ferdinand are sorry for this misunderstanding and will endeavour to ensure that it is not repeated in the future.
Despite these assurances, as of June 2013, Ferdinand’s image was still being widely used by the company, including as a backdrop to the company’s Twitter feed and on the front of its Facebook page.
Ferdinand is not the only Premier League star to promote InterSport. Fernando Torres, the world famous Chelsea player, also appeared in an advert for the company which was posted on YouTube in 2010 and in June 2013 his image appears as a backdrop to the company's Twitter feed, along with Ferdinand.
It is unknown whether Torres knows that InterSport is connected to an Indonesian tobacco company, whether he has held or continues to hold a contract with the company.
Other Football Stars
The images of other football stars also appear on InterSport’s website. Again, it is unknown whether they have contracts with the company.
- Euromonitor International, Country Report: Tobacco in Indonesia, 2011, accessed July 2012
- Jonathan Miller, Indonesia’s Tobacco Children, 9 November 2012, accessed June 2013
- The Premier League, Copyright Information, accessed June 2013
- Gudang Garam International, InterSport Website, accessed June 2013
- Nick Noble, Personal Email to TobaccoTactics, 2 November 2012
- YouTube, Gudang Garam Inter Sport Barclays Premier League Footage, posted 29 January 2011, accessed June 2013
- Jamie Doward and Tegan Rogers, Rio Ferdinand criticised over advert linked to Asian tobacco firm, The Guardian, 16 June 2012, accessed July 2012
- Twitter, @ggintersport, accessed June 2013
- YouTube, InterSport's Video posted 18 May 2010, accessed June 2013